Analysis: Nigeria gets ready for big election By FUNKE OSAE-BROWN in Lagos | Sunday, March 27   2011 at  16:13

Social media sites such as Twitter are expected to feature heavily in Nigeria's April election. Incidentally incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan announced his candidacy through Facebook. FILE | AFRICA REVIEW 

There is a strong urge among Nigerians especially the youth to have a free and fair election in April. For the first time in Nigeria’s history more young people registered in the last voters’ registration exercise.

Since a large number of youths registered to vote in the forthcoming April elections, the probability is the April elections will be more monitored through mobile devices. Hence technology will play a great role in the elections.

With 87 million handsets in the hands of Nigerians, most of whom are young people, who social media inclined, for the first time, Nigeria ’s 2011 election will be transparent even if the government does not want it.

The reason is that political parties are mobilising young people to monitor the counting of votes at polling stations in their areas. The results are to be announced online immediately while they are also encouraged to take pictures and upload them online.

A most likely scenario on Election Day will be millions of young people will upload images of activities going on at polling centres in their localities. Those who plan to snatch ballot papers may find it difficult to do so as their images will be on Facebook and Youtube, Blogs and Twitter.

Watch out

The Police will have to watch out also as any brutality or unfair play will be reported on the social media. For the first time, it will not just be the TV Camera or the photo journalist that will be on the watch out, every Nigerian will be a TV Cameraman and photojournalist and citizen journalism will be at its peak. Hence without help from the government the April 2011 will be transparent.

Candidate Buhari


And so, a good number of the votes on Election Day will count. What this means is that candidates will have to sell themselves to voters. Voters are also going to voted for based on their perceived believes and sentiments. It is based on these that most political analysts are coming to the conclusion, that Nigeria’s 2011 election will likely end in a run off.

The most important assumption underlying this projection is that votes will count. If votes are going to count, then the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan will have many issues to deal with.

Political analysts believe going by current trend none of the current presidential front runners has what it takes to win the presidency at the first ballot in the April Presidential elections.

There is a strong feeling that none of Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP, Mohammed Buhari of the CPC and Ribadu of the ACN have what it takes to emerge the overall winner in this contest which is expected to test the acceptance of the ruling party for the first time.

Not strong
Political analysts argue that Jonathan is not strong enough to win the major states in the North neither is Buhari strong enough to win in any of the Southern States in Nigeria nor Ribadu who is only strong enough to win in the South West, a strong hold of the ACN.

Analysts based their projections on Buhari’s strength in the North especially in the Northwestern states of Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Katsina and Kano States where even without the financial muscle of the PDP, Buhari has been able to pull huge crowds during his presidential campaign rallies.

Even with a huge financial muscle and power of incumbency, Jonathan has not been able to attain acceptability in the North. His campaign rallies have not gone without major incidents in the Northwest, an indication of possible lack of acceptance in the region.

In Gombe, his presidential campaign team was stoned; he hardly could fill the stadium in Kaduna where his vice president comes from while in Niger State , a bomb was thrown into the gathering at his presidential rally.

In the middle: Nuhu Ribadu


Jonathan’s problems in the North is largely borne out of a feeling by a large segment of Northern elites that they have been cheated out of their turn to rule Nigeria. This feeling seems to have largely been strong even on the mind the average man on the street.

Hence Buhari is now seen as a strong leader in the North. As far back as late last year, even before Jonathan indicated his willingness to run for the presidency, a BBC Hausa service poll had picked Buhari as the preferred candidate in the North. This clearly shows Buhari’s strong acceptance in the region which is largely based on the perception that Buhari is incorruptible.

Unfortunately for Buhari, though perceived as incorruptible in the South, he is not really seen as the man who will emerge as a good leader. Most Southerners feel that Buhari may become too rigid in governance and therefore end up not being an effective leader.

Jonathan on the other hand is seen as a leader who may be good for the Nigerian economy. His willingness to continue with most of the reforms initially abandoned under the Yar Adua presidency like the power reforms, the petroleum industry bill, privatization among other economic initiatives has endeared him to the business community.

But Jonathan is also perceived as being soft and weak and so he will not be able stand the cabals that are bent on sharing the nation’s wealth. His record with the nation’s external reserves has not endeared him to the nation. He is seen as someone who will be easily manipulated for cabals to siphon the nation’s wealth.

Ribadu is the man in the middle. He is admired more for his powerful fight against corruption when he was the head of Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Frontrunner: Goodluck Jonathan

And Fola Adeola, his running mate, is a former banker whom most people believe can turn around the economy if he gets into Aso Rock. Both of them have strong technocrat credentials but not much of political savvy to take them through the election.

Kingmaker

However, there is the feeling that they will have a strong showing in the Southwest, ACN’s strong hold mainly because the ACN will ensure that ACN is voted for across its western states to avoid the mistake of 2003 where their support for a presidential candidate cost them the Southwest.

In addition, there is strong possibility that if the ACN can keep the Southwest for itself, as the party may emerge the king maker in the April presidential elections.

If Buhari gets most of the vote in the North, while Jonathan gets most of the vote in the South but not enough to scale the 2/3rd of 36 states including Abuja. If ACN grabs the South West, it will end up as the king maker as it will then decide whether to go with the ruling party or the CPC with whom several alliance talks have so far failed.

The ACN will definitely cherish this position and thus the strong incentive to ensure its own presidential candidate do well in the Southwest.
So for the first time, Nigeria is faced with a highly interesting election scenario. It is not clear how it will play out on Election Day.

But the electoral authorities will do well to start putting their acts together ahead of what will no doubt be an interesting and unforgettable 2011 presidential election. Nigeria may just about to start its real democratic journey.